Missouri Appeals Court Rules Against Floating Horse Teeth

Almost 18 months ago, I shared the news:   Floating Horse Teeth Goes on Trial in Missouri.  Admittedly one of the strangest headlines I’ve ever written, the story had to do with Brooke Gray’s desire to continue practicing her profession of caring for horse teeth (i.e., “floating horse teeth”) in the state of Missouri.  Yesterday, I learned from the folks at the Freedom Center of Missouri that Gray appears to have lost her right to practice her profession in the Show-Me State.

In early January 2012, the Clinton County Circuit Court in Plattsburg, Mo., ruled that it can and will enforce a state law that forbids any non-veterinarian to accept payment for providing basic animal husbandry services.  The judgment allowed Gray, a young woman with eight years’ training and experience at removing sharp enamel points from horses’ teeth, to continue assisting Missouri’s animal owners—but if she gets paid for her efforts, she will be fined and possibly sent to jail.  The Freedom Center of Missouri, which represents Gray, had argued that the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions protect a citizen’s right to earn a living providing basic animal husbandry services.

Now, fast forward to present.  According to the Center‘s Dave Roland, the Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the state can make it a criminal offense for non-veterinarians to provide basic animal husbandry services to Missouri’s livestock owners.

Noting that the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board had threatened criminal prosecution against a wide range of animal husbandry workers, including those engaged in such common, basic tasks as castrating or dehorning cattle, Roland explained, the court ruled the government may impose criminal penalties if these non-veterinarian workers are paid for their labor, despite long-recognized constitutional rights to earn a living in a common occupation and to enjoy the gains of one’s industry.

The decision came despite the fact that non-veterinarians have performed this task for hundreds of years in order to improve horses’ comfort and ability to perform for their owners.

“The court’s ruling effectively strips the right to enjoy the gains of your own industry clean out of the Missouri Constitution,” Roland said.  “What good is a constitutional right if the government can simply declare that it no longer applies?”

Gray was baffled by the court’s decision.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” she said.  “I’m helping horses and horse owners, not hurting them.  The court seemed to confirm that literally anyone is lawfully permitted to do this kind of work and that it is the sort of ‘industry’ addressed in the Missouri Constitution.  So why is it a criminal offense if a grateful horse owner pays me for doing that work?  It just doesn’t make sense.”

The appellate opinion also stated that while the work itself might be legal, it would be illegal for Gray to tell anyone else about her skills – despite the fact that this issue was not raised as part of the appeal.  The trial court had concluded that the government was not seeking to prevent Gray from sharing any information about her knowledge and ability, and the trial court expressly declined to include any such prohibition in its injunction.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has made abundantly clear that the government has no power to prevent citizens from sharing truthful information,” Roland explained.  “Brooke is very good at what she does and she has every right to tell other people about it, especially when the work that she’s talking about is perfectly legal.”

The Freedom Center of Missouri intends to seek further judicial review of Gray’s case.

“Missouri is home to thousands of workers who have for decades safely and affordably helped farmers and ranchers manage their livestock,” Roland said.  “Their services are essential to this state’s animal agriculture industry and both our state and federal constitutions guarantee these folks the right to get paid for their work.  We’re going to keep fighting to make sure that those constitutional guarantees have real meaning.”

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Bob McCarty is the author of Three Days In August and THE CLAPPER MEMO. To learn more about either book or to place an order, click on the graphic above.

Gardening Against the Law in Backwards Missouri City

During World War I and World War II, it was considered one’s patriotic duty to plant a “victory garden” in order to reduce food costs.  Doing such a thing today, however, could result in one man having to pay a hefty fine or worse if officials in the backward city of Ferguson, Mo., get their way.

According to a news release from Dave Roland at the Freedom Center of Missouri, Karl Tricamo never imagined that it would be especially controversial when he decided to plant a garden in his yard in order to secure cheap, nutritious, organic produce for his family.  Just to be sure, however, he looked up all of the relevant ordinances in the city just north of St. Louis and confirmed that he would not be violating any laws.

Tricamo found that nothing in the ordinances prohibit citizens from growing healthy, organic produce on one’s property.  In fact, the city’s zoning ordinances specifically allow residents to cultivate community gardens and urban agricultural uses in residential areas.

Because he planted the garden in front of his house instead of behind it, Ferguson city officials soon began to pester Tricamo, going so far as suggesting that his garden was illegal.  Roland describes the chain of events that followed:

In March, shortly after he had tilled the garden in preparation for planting, the city sent a letter commanding that the yard be covered in straw and planted with grass seed – even though nothing in the city ordinances requires yards to be planted with grass or prohibits the planting of a garden on residential property.

Six weeks later city officials sent another letter demanding the removal of the vegetables from his yard because the property was not zoned for “agricultural” use, but of course the relevant section of Ferguson’s zoning ordinances explicitly allows gardens to be grown in residential areas.  Then the City sent Mr. Tricamo a notice (below) alleging a violation of Ferguson ordinance number 7-133 – but that ordinance addresses the structural elements of residential buildings such as foundations, walls, windows and doors, stairways, chimneys, gutters, roofs, and buildings’ exterior surfaces.  It says nothing about yards.

When Mr. Tricamo confronted the City about this violation notice, they rapidly backtracked and claimed that it had been sent by accident!  The City said he should disregard the notice, but have continued to insist that Tricamo’s garden is illegal.

Coincidentally, Tricamo’s troubles are taking place just down the road from the city of Hazelwood, Mo., where city officials took issue with two Girl Scouts trying to sell cookies in the driveway.  Coincidentally, the same lawyers who represented the city of Hazelwood against Caitlin and Abigail Mills are representing the city of Ferguson.

This situation illustrates a common practice among some city officials, writes Roland in the news release.  When all else fails in their attempt to control citizens’ behavior, they sometimes just make stuff up.

Learn more about the case here.

After reading about this case, be sure to order a copy of my book, “Three Days In August: A U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier’s Fight For Military Justice.” It, too, will make your blood boil!

Floating Horse Teeth Goes on Trial in Missouri

Brooke Gray has never had a client complain about her work, and several licensed veterinarians in Missouri have been so impressed with her abilities that they refer clients to her and they even entrust their own horses to Gray’s care.  Still, because one licensed veterinarian wanted to eliminate competition from people like Gray, the government is now attempting to make Gray the first non-veterinarian animal husbandry worker in Missouri to be stripped of her right to earn a living.

At 9 a.m. Central Monday, Gray will be represented by attorney Dave Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri as she fights for the right to practice her profession in a courtroom inside the Clinton County (Mo.) Courthouse in Plattsburg.

What does Gray do that makes her such a threat to veterinarians?  She floats horse teeth.   If you’re not familiar with that specialty, watch the video below, and I think you’ll understand.

Throughout Missouri history, farmers and ranchers who needed help with branding cattle, castrating hogs or shoeing horses, they could call upon a neighbor or a skilled temporary worker, according to a Freedom Center news release.  Even after the state of Missouri began regulating the practice of veterinary medicine in the early 1900s, no one ever thought the law would prevent non-veterinarians from providing this state’s animal owners with basic animal husbandry services.  Today, things have changed.

Missouri’s livestock industry currently depends on as many as 10,000 non-veterinarian workers who help service this state’s 3.9 million cattle, 2.9 million hogs, 81,000 sheep and 281,000 horses – to say nothing of chickens, turkeys, and goats, according to Roland, but the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board has decided that animal owners should no longer be permitted to have neighbors or skilled non-veterinarians assist with their herds.

This case is expected to be decided Tuesday.  Stay tuned for details of how it turns out.

UPDATE 9/28/11 at 9:50 p.m. Central:  Hurry up and wait.

UPDATE 1/05/12 at 4:45 p.m. Central:  Below is the text of some not-so-good news in the form of a news release issued today by the folks at the Freedom Center of Missouri:

Court: Missouri Farmers Must Hire Vets for Basic Animal Care

Hired Hands May Be Prosecuted, If Paid

The Clinton County Circuit Court in Plattsburg, Missouri, has ruled that it can and will enforce a state law that forbids any non-veterinarian to accept payment for providing basic animal husbandry services.  The judgment allows Brooke Gray, a young woman with eight years’ training and experience at removing sharp enamel points from horses’ teeth, to continue assisting Missouri’s animal owners—but if she gets paid for her efforts, she will be fined and possibly sent to jail.  The Freedom Center of Missouri, which represents Gray, had argued that the U.S. and Missouri Constitutions protect a citizen’s right to earn a living providing basic animal husbandry services.

“I just hope that people understand that this case is not just about me,” Gray explained.  “The law makes it a criminal offense for a non-veterinarian to get paid for any act that changes an animal’s physical or mental condition. The Board has already determined that this applies to animal massage, castration and routine vaccinations, and the Board’s executive director even testified that the law could eventually be applied to pet grooming!”

“Missouri is home to thousands of workers who have for decades safely and affordably helped farmers and ranchers manage their livestock,” said Dave Roland, director of litigation for the Freedom Center.  “Their services are essential to this state’s animal agriculture industry.  But in the past few years the state Veterinary Medical Board has been threatening to prosecute these workers simply because animal owners are paying them.  I’m afraid that Brooke’s case is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Gray has never injured an animal and received high praise from the very animal owners the government relied upon to make its case against her, yet the Veterinary Medical Board filed suit against Gray in September 2010, in response to a complaint submitted by a veterinarian in nearby Clay County who sometimes works on horses’ teeth.  That same veterinarian, who has filed similar complaints against several other animal husbandry workers, admitted at trial that he has injured more than one horse in his own efforts to work on their teeth. Two other veterinarians testified in support of Gray, stating that they have been so impressed with her skill that they do not hesitate to recommend her to their own clients; one of those veterinarians has even entrusted Gray with assisting the vet’s own horse.  Several witnesses also testified that due to the very limited numbers of large animal veterinarians, requiring animal owners to hire veterinarians for simple tasks, such as branding or castrating cattle or shoeing horses, would greatly increase the costs of animal ownership and could actually reduce the level of care that animals receive.

Roland said that Gray and the Freedom Center intend to appeal the court’s ruling.

“The Missouri Constitution guarantees a citizen’s right to enjoy the gains of their own industry,” Roland said.  “Exactly one hundred years ago the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that this means that the government cannot deny someone the right to be paid for performing work that would otherwise be perfectly legal.  Especially when so many Missourians are already struggling to find jobs, we believe that this common-sense principle still applies and that the higher courts will uphold Brooke’s constitutional right to earn a living.”

UPDATE 2/20/2013 at 8:03 a.m. Central:  Brooke Gray lost her first appeal.

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Judge Dismisses Case of Cookie-Selling Sisters

Four months ago, city officials in Hazelwood, Mo., told Caitlin and Abigail Mills to stop selling cookies in the driveway of their home.

Four weeks ago, they took their case to court.

Four days ago, St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Maura B. McShane dismissed without comment the petition filed on behalf of the sisters — 16 and 14, respectively — by their mother, Carolyn Mills.

“Caitlin and Abigail knew that the Constitution protects citizens’ rights to use their property in harmless ways,” said Dave Roland, the girls’ attorney and director of litigation at the Freedom Center of Missouri“They went to the court with a very simple question: Can a local government really ban the traditional, kid-run concession stand?  This case is extremely important because it is the first in the nation to challenge the growing trend of local officials preventing kids from selling lemonade, baked goods, or produce to passersby.”

Despite the judge’s decision, the Mills and their attorney are not quite ready to concede defeat.  In fact, they plan to ask the judge to reconsider the dismissal of their lawsuit or, at a minimum, to explain her reasoning so they will have a clearer idea of how to proceed.  If the judge does not vacate the dismissal, the Freedom Center expects to appeal the decision.

UPDATE 2/24/12 at 11:57 a.m. Central:  Hey folks! Two girls who were the focus of this story are going to be on a John Stossel special, “Illegal Everything,” tonight on Fox News Channel.

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